Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You rose above human discontent and ego because on our own we could not. We know You died to win us peace with God and that such peace must spill over into our relationships with each other. Today remind us to speak to each other in love, to act in kindness, and to always try to put the very best construction on each other’s actions so that unity and harmony may prevail in Your church. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF THE CHURCH!
TEXT: I Corinthians 1: 10-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Do you know what an oasis is? Living in New England we’re surrounded by water—the ocean, streams, lakes, and ponds. When you fly in from the West or Midwest in the middle of the summer you can always tell when you’re getting close to home. That’s because the dry, parched landscape changes to a seemingly endless stretch of green. And all this results from our well-watered land.
Not so in the desert. There it is brown, dusty, and dry. People journey for miles to find a source of life-giving water. And when they see one of those little puddles of water—an oasis—with the trees and greenery surrounding it, their hearts are uplifted because the renewal of life stands before them. Suddenly their fears and worries fade, replaced by peace, tranquility, and happiness. All this because they now have water to keep them alive.
I’ve often reminded you that Pinewood is an oasis amid a dusty, parched landscape called: New England. We’re a spiritual oasis of Godly peace amid an increasingly tough, dog-eat-dog, environment. Work doesn’t bring internal peace. The malls are a zoo. People are often surly and I don’t have to remind any of you about road rage.—You face it every time you go anywhere! But, at Pinewood we get along. We value each other. We practice love and compassion toward each other. All of this is built on Christ and His forgiving love extended to each of us.
Not all churches are so blest. And nothing can fracture a congregation or hurt Christ more than some parishioners who are discontented and who voice their malcontent with each other. Many of us have visited such churches and strife among Christians is unsettling. It blunts mission outreach. And it mocks Christ. And that is why I’m always attuned to trying to head it off before it can give birth to its evil seed. Well, today I don’t know of any big problems in this area at Pinewood. But, since the devil is always at work trying to undermine our service to Christ, I want to remind you to:
FOCUS ON CHRIST AND BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER!
Factionalism is deadly in any church. I know of one congregation which has a Christian day school. That is a wonderful blessing. Training children in Christ’s forgiveness and tempering the hard edges of this world with Godly truth protects, preserves and defends those little souls. Yes, the Christian day school approach to education is light years apart from the immorality and ego driven drivel that is often promoted by secular schools. However, in the congregation I’m thinking of that school has been misused to promote factionalism among the entire membership. The older members often feel left out, disconnected from the school. It is a drain on the church finances. Some of the parents of children who attend resent the occasional carping by older members. While these same “oldsters” resent being ignored and/or shunned by the “school people.” I use this as an example of how Satan undermines Christ and His work.
Right now at Pinewood we have many diverse groups. We have the burgeoning population of children. We have a healthy group of young singles. We have men and women. We have married folks. We have long-term members and many newer members, as well. Likewise, we have those who have “grown up Lutheran” and are thus unified in their background and approach to the church, while at the same time we have many who grew up in different denominations or maybe no church at all and who bring their diverse pasts to our table. My job and your job is to build up each group, to homogenize each group, so that Christ may be honored and all may be made more holy.
The church at Corinth was a city church, just like us. They had members from all backgrounds and walks of life. Paul had started the congregation and was held in high regard by those who came to Christ under his leadership. Then Apollos, the great preacher, followed Paul and influenced many people. Still others had known Cephas, or Peter, and held him in high regard. All of these men sought to lead people to Jesus. Christ was the one constant behind their efforts to save souls. And yet, human nature, being what it is, brought human likes and dislikes to the fore and factionalism started to grow.
Apparently Paul heard about this from some folks from Chloe’s household. And he was deeply offended and hurt by such discontent among the membership. And so, he writes to them rather bluntly: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
In the world at large people are responsible for themselves, their families, and maybe their friends. But, at church, we’re also responsible for our fellow believers along with their friends. In short, we are our brother’s keeper! Each soul we meet is precious in God’s sight because each soul has been bought and paid for with Christ’s precious blood. Jesus died for all people—the young, the old, the poor, the rich, the healthy, the sick, even those who might appear unfriendly or who disagree with us at times. Because of that God expects us to pray for and encourage everyone. And He especially expects us to value all others who confess His holy name and to honor our fellow members. Elsewhere Paul says: “Do good to all, but especially to those of the household of faith.”
In a few weeks we’ll have our annual meeting of the congregation. At that meeting we’ll elect officers, appoint various members to boards and committees, adopt a budget which will focus on efforts during the coming year and adopt other initiatives in our midst. At the meeting everyone can speak and give their opinion. But when the voters vote, all disagreements must be laid aside. All must work together for the common good of each other. For that approach honors Christ and He’s what it’s all about. Meanwhile, strive to be different from the Corinthians! Sit with people you don’t know. Converse with new folks. Take time with some else’s children. Ask questions not with confrontation, but with kindness and learn. For when you do, when you preach and apply the gospel to each other’s lives, only good things will result. Namely, unity, love, and compassion. Yes, when you focus on Christ you will be at peace with one another! And then Christ’s blessings will become even more apparent. Amen.